Hints and Tips About Finding the Right Accountant
In our hints and tips for finding the right accountant we are going to assume some basics. Maybe you have not looked for an accountant before or it's not something you recon your an expert at.
Setting expectations, ask questions bit of thought.
- Is your business large or small?
- Is tax and tax expertise important to the service you think you want?
- Does your accountant have to be close to you or are you happy to communicate by email and phone most of the time?
- Do you have a business that has employees?
- Are your books and records computerised? If so what software so you use, Excel, Sage, QuickBooks or other software to compile your records?
- Do you want a big accountancy firm to act or a small practice, maybe an even one "man" (or woman) firm?
- About to start a new business? Get advice first. Sole trader v Limited Company. VAT registration, Registering to pay National Insurance...
We suggest you give the above six or so points a little consideration.
If your a large business, maybe you know you accountant need an audit for example, then you might want to think about choosing a larger accountant and perhaps one that has been established longer. If the accounting work is quite demanding or it might be or if an "audit" is required you will probably need to chose an accountancy firm that is regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales (ICEAW) or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). If you think tax advise is an important part of the advise you need you might seek an accountancy firm that has qualified Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) staff. See our organisations page for details about each of these organisations.
If your a small business, sole trader, landlord or retired perhaps and tax is the most important part of the advise you are seeking we recommend check the firm you chose has staff that are qualified members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation and maybe even a firm that is regulated by the CIOT and not worry so much about if it is also regulated by ICAEW or ACCA.
Fees are always a sore point. Most of us hate spending money on accountants and other advisers. Our advise is don't always select the cheapest quote you get as you may find you get what you pay for. Poor service. We suggest you get three quotes. Ask if the accountants concerned allow a monthly payment plan, fixed fees as well as what they think the work should cost. If you are worried about fees then ask for a fixed fee or "fee range" i.e. one with a top end. One of the advantages with a range is that it does not ask the accountant to second guess in advance how long the work will take, this avoids corners being cut, and gives a bit of room to manoeuvre, and you know the most it is going to cost. Make sure you get a quote in writing, at least by email, in advance to avoid any shocks. If you bargain too heavily for low fees you run the risk of not getting the best service.
Make sure it is clear if the quote is including or plus vat.
The best working relationships with accountants are the close, personal ones. Get along with your accountant well, keep him or her informed, and your more likely to be well looked after. Most people stay with the same accountant (if they are good!) for many years. So don't rush selecting the accountant you want to use. Don't be frightened to ask questions. "How can you help me?" "What do you think I need to do in my circumstances?", "How much experience do you have of people in my circumstances?". When an accountant says he's an "expert" or "specialist" in a certain field take it with a pinch of salt. There are only a few "specialists" and it sounds great to say you are one. Judge what your three accountants said to you and arrange a meeting with the one you think tops your list. After the meeting or discussion on the phone you can always go back to second or third on your list till you are happy with your choice.
As a general rule the large the accountancy firm the larger the bill you can expect. With smaller firms you tend to get higher experienced staff at a lower charge out rate per hour. Most accountancy firms work out their charges based on charge out rates for various levels of staff, based on experience. Avoid the pitfalls like picking a small accountancy firm perhaps with poor tax knowledge if tax advice is your primary service needed. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" as the saying goes...
Pay your accountant his fees promptly. Would you do something for some cheaper if they paid you quicker than if they paid you slower?
Be polite and thoughtful. Take an interest in your accountant. They are more likely to take an interest in you....
Make sure you brief your accountant as fully as possible about your circumstances. If your accountant is not fully aware of the facts their advice is less likely to be as useful to you as it could be.
Ask questions, even if you think the accountant will think your silly asking. If you want to know something ask... The answer your accountant (or potential accountants) gives you might well tell you a lot about just how much or little your accountant knows!
Ask the accountant what needs to be done about record keeping, tax, vat, National Insurance (including class 2 NIC). When to register and will they do it for you or do you need to register. When?
Ask your accountant about the best way to budget for tax so you have the money put aside when you need it to pay the tax.
We strongly recommend you keep good records in a neat and timely fashion as you can. The better your records passed to your accountant the more your likely to save in fees as your accountant should be able to process the information quicker in terms of the time spent analysing our records and turning it into something acceptable to HM Revenue & Customs and also Companies House if you run a Limited Company. Less time number crunching also means your accountant will have more time left in the same budget to advise you how you can improve our business or tax issues.
Your relationship with your accountant
Aim to be one of their best clients. Perhaps recommend friends or colleagues to them, and let your accountant know if your happy with the service you get. If your a the top of your accountants list of best client's your going to get the best service from them. Being the best client is not the same as being the client who pays the highest fees! Just stand out from the other clients.